Fire destroys Moria refugee camp

The Moria refugee camp destroyed by fire, with shelter-less children, youth, and adults trapped in a humanitarian crisis and prevented from leaving has become the ultimate mark of Europe’s failed refugee – and migration policy – and inhumanity.

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The multiple fires that broke out in the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesvos the night of 8 September have left 13,000 refugees without shelter. Your donations are crucial for the Movement On The Ground to provide food, water and shelter to those at risk. Movement On The Ground is a foundation responding to a humanitarian crisis affecting the innocent men, women and children forced from their homes due to climate change, poverty and war.

Lesbos is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Greece and serves as one of the primary gateways to Europe for many of those fleeing war from countries in Middle East and central Asia. Once a place of transit, the migratory agreement reached between the European Union and Turkey in March of 2016 -as part of a long process of border militarization- saw the Island become a place of detention, lack of legal aid and denial of access to justice and asylum for thousands of migrants trapped in overcrowded and violent humanitarian spaces, turned into detentions centers as the case of the Moria refugee camp.

Destroyed by several fires in recent days as desperate acts of rejection in the face of even more severe confinement by the Greek government in the framework of the COVID-19 contingency, Moria housed four times its maximum capacity at the time of this tragedy that has left 13,000 people in a situation of utter destitution. Humanitarian organizations, many of them independent, have worked for years in the different humanitarian spaces of Lesbos providing material and emotional support, as in the case of Movement On The Ground, a Dutch organization that has been present since the beginning of the so-called “European refugee crisis” in 2015. Movement On The Ground’s team is urgently trying to get basic necessities as well as food and water for thousands of people in a context great tension on the island. We therefore appreciate your donations and support to Lesbos migrants and refugees at this critical time through the Movement On The Ground platform.

Moria, formerly a prison, was inherited by the current European and Greek authorities and by 2015 had become the largest refugee camp in Europe. It functioned within the framework of the hotspot approach introduced by the Migration Agenda of the European Commission, a model that allowed the deployment of different continental agencies such as Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Europol to consolidate a restrictive asylum model involving security borders. Since the implementation of Moria, migrants and refugees have permanently suffered dehumanizing living conditions, without access to basic health services, water, housing, or legal assistance for their asylum processes. Fires, riots and demonstrations have been recurrent as forms of protest and resistance in the face of indifference and systematic racism on the part of the European Union and the Greek government, whose migration policies continue to be increasingly violent and restrictive. The European Union and the Greek government are therefore directly responsible for the recent fires and the conditions in which thousands of people continue to survive.

Watch Edgar Cordova’s pictures from Lesvos and the people of Moria prior to the fire:

These images were taken in 2016 in different humanitarian spaces of Lesbos such as the refugee camp “Kara Tepe”, the Port of the capital of the island Mytilene or the surroundings of the hotospot Moria. They give an account of the daily life of migrants and refugees in Lesbos in a context of waiting and uncertainty due to their ongoing asylum processes after months on the island. It was also a period in which thousands of people began to organize and form anti-racist movements to protest the slowness of asylum procedures and the increasing criminalization refugees and migrants faced in crowded spaces. Likewise, hundreds of young migrants and refugees in camps such as Kara Tepe, a center where 1,000 asylum seekers live, began to create their own dynamics of sociability and solidarity within their communities, in collaboration with multiple volunteers from different countries around the world who came to join the Movement On The Ground team to provide food and logistical support for the improvement of the refugee camps on the island.

Edgar Cordova was one of the PhD students at this year’s “Effects fo Lawfare” PhD course and has done fieldwork on Lesvos and with people from the Moria camp as part of his PhD at CIESAS, Mexico.

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Photo credit: Thanasis voulgarakis